Austrian Christine Wolf holds a four-stroke lead at the Hero Women’s Indian Open after firing a second successive 68 in scorching 39C temperatures in Gurugram on Friday.
At eight-under, Wolf is four clear of Thailand’s Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras, who carded a level par 72 on the Gary Player Course at DLF Golf and Country Club.
The Thai player was one back before she twice found the water on the par-5 eighth, her penultimate hole, running up a triple bogey eight, but she recovered her nerve to birdie her last hole.
First round leader Tonje Daffinrud from Norway sits in solo third position on three-under after carding a 75. Fellow Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord, Manon Mollé from France and England’s Ellie Givens share fourth on two-under-par, with local player Tvesa Malik the leading Indian in a four-way share of seventh place on one-under-par, alongside Nicole Broch Larsen, Celine Boutier and Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakhul.
Wolf carded the best score of the day. The 29-year-old from Innsbruck three-putted her first hole, but then made seven birdies in a nine-hole stretch from the fifth to the 13th holes to reach 10-under-par.
She dropped two shots coming in, after hitting her approach shot left of the 14th green, before taking another three-putt bogey on the difficult 17th (pictured above).
Her seven birdies included a tap-in on No.8 and Wolf said: “I hit a lot of greens and hit my iron shots were close, so I gave myself a lot of chances and I really enjoyed it out there. I made a lot of birdies and tried to keep high numbers off the score card. I hit every fairway today. It suits my eye and it’s just fantastic when you walk around here: it’s beautiful.”
India has proved a happy hunting ground for Wolf, who held a four-way share of the lead after the first round at DLF in 2016, ending in a tie for 11th position. She also finished 20th in 2015.
— Ladies European Tour (@LETgolf) October 19, 2018
Coming into the penultimate tournament of the 2018 Ladies European Tour season in 15th position on the order of merit after 3 top-10 finishes, she would like to move up a few places, but said: “I’m just enjoying it. We have one-and-a-half events left this year, so I want to make the most of it. On this course, you don’t want to get ahead of yourself, so I’m going to take it one step at a time.”
The 2012 Crete Ladies Open winner on the LET Access Series added: “Anything can happen if you just miss one shot, so there are still 36 holes to go. Of course, it’s nice to have a big lead, but you can’t get comfortable out here. Every shot you hit, you have to be patient and try and keep it in play.”
Thanapolboonyaras wasn’t the only player to run up a big score down the stretch. Daffinrud also made a triple bogey, on the par-4 14th, where she hit her approach beyond the green and took five more strokes to get down.
“I was on it and on schedule, but I made a triple bogey on number 14 and that kind of crushed my plan,” she said. “After that, it was a struggle to make birdies and I was still kind of upset and trying to let go. Overall I did play pretty well and I have to focus on that. That can happen on this course, that you end up having a crazy hole and that’s what happened to me. I had a triple bogey and I shot plus three, but I’m still pretty positive about my game.”
A two-time winner on the LET Access Series in 2014, an injury to her left wrist took Daffinrud out for the best part of two seasons, in 2015 and 2017. She now limits her practise time and wears strapping as a precaution.
She explained: “I came out of the LET Access Series and got my card on the Ladies European Tour in 2015, my rookie year. I was injured in my wrist in the Spring and it took me out for five months. It was a stress fracture in my wrist. I didn’t need surgery and I initially had to take six weeks off but it ended up being five months.
“It was a struggle in my rookie year. I had momentum and I felt really solid and then I lost five months of practice. The wrist has been fine but then it got worse again last year so I had to take a few months off last season as well.
“This year, it feels way stronger. I’m practising much smarter. I’m not hitting the same shot for two hours straight. I try to break up my practise, hit target shots and take breaks to be precautionary with my wrist. I strap it up to do what I can, not because it’s really a problem right now. It has been, but today I feel good.”
Malik, who won a domestic tour event on the DLF Course a month ago, mixed four birdies with three bogeys for a 71.
She said: “I’m disappointed with today, I feel I could have finished much better, I had a lot of good chances for birdies specially in the last 4-5 holes but I could not convert. My game has been good so hopefully tomorrow and day after will be better. I started really good with two birdies on the 10th and 11th, had another birdie on the 16th but after that I just missed a lot of birdies.
“I’m set to go to LET Q school in December and I’m happy with my game. In this event, it’s good to see yourself competing against the players you want to compete with. I think it is a good step towards Q school. It’s about getting into your comfort zone, being comfortable with different courses, playing against players who are great. My game is there, I just need to do it consistently and in situations where it’s needed.”
The Hero Women’s Indian Open continues this weekend, with live television coverage and streaming available on the LET Facebook page on Saturday and Sunday.